Rob Kaufman, a developer known for his detailed restoration of historic properties across town, died April 8 after a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 71 years old.
“Dad fought a long and hard battle but sadly didn’t win,” Kaufman’s daughter Jennifer Kaufman Walker said. “Pancreatic cancer is a silent killer. The signs are very minimal and if we had known he might have survived.
Kaufman was the founder and president of PMA Properties, specializing for over 40 years in the rehabilitation of unique historic buildings, converting them for commercial, residential and corporate purposes.
“Anyone who knew Rob would be hard-pressed to describe the impact he had on Alexandria,” longtime friend Cal Simmons said. “He was such a low key guy. We have a lot of public people in our community doing great things, but Rob was very low key but had a huge impact.
Robert John Kaufman was born on May 11, 1950 in Kitchener, Ontario, one of four children of the late Robert Walter and Elizabeth Churchill Kaufman. While still a teenager, Kaufman left school to begin his career in Canada. He built and developed several hundred homes in three Canadian cities before moving his family to Alexandria in the 1980s.
“Dad left school in 10th or 11th grade,” Walker said. “His family owned a lumber business and a rubber business, so he was born into a family of entrepreneurs. He had this tremendous drive and passion for history and construction and formed throughout his life. He always told me: ‘You can realize what your mind can perceive.’ »
Kaufman was known for the meticulous detail of his restoration projects, including the restoration of the Old Town Theater on King Street. Now home to outdoor apparel company Patagonia, PMA Properties bought the 1914 building in 2011 for $2 million. Under pressure from the community to save the historic theater, Kaufman restored the property with the intention of maintaining it as an entertainment venue. The late Jeffrey Yates bought it from Kaufman in 2015 to operate as a theater with Asana Partners who acquired the space in 2018 after Yates died.
Although the project did not survive as an entertainment space, Kaufman was honored by the Alexandria Historical Foundation in 2013 for his preservation of the building.
“Rob had a portfolio of 26 to 28 commercial properties, and he renovated them all,” said Charlotte Hall, a friend and business owner. “He transformed not only lower King Street, but upper King Street as well. Talk about a commitment to your community. His commitment to his family was number one, but his commitment to Alexandria was second to none.
Known for his optimistic outlook on life – PMA Properties stands for Positive Mental Attitude – Kaufman earned his pilot’s license, became a tennis champion, did radio voice-overs and trained in sailing at the Academy before sailing more than 10,000 miles from the Caribbean to northeastern Canada. . In addition to his many awards and honors, Kaufman was named one of Washington’s Millennial Leaders and his portrait hangs in the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.
“Dad always kept his story close to his heart,” Walker said. “He turned down a nomination for Living Legends – he was very modest in that sense. As a father, he set the bar very high, allowing me to stumble and make mistakes, and then supporting me as I faced them. As a grandfather, he was amazing to watch, saying he never knew how much joy being a grandparent could bring.
Simmons echoed Kaufman’s optimism.
“Even when Rob was first diagnosed with cancer, he had one of the most positive outlooks I could imagine,” Simmons said. “It was mind-blowing to me. He was going to fight it any way he could, but he also lived his life the best he could.
Besides his daughter, Kaufman is survived by his wife of 45 years, Karen, his son-in-law, Ryan Walker, and two grandchildren, Josephine Emma (Joy) and Gunnar Robert. He is also survived by his brother-in-law, Robert J. Chapeskie, brothers Peter and David Kaufman and their families, as well as extended family members and friends. He was predeceased by his sister, Maryjane Kaufman Riddell, and brother-in-law, Doug Riddell of Canada.
The services will be private. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. www.pancan.org
“Rob was an incredible asset to Alexandria,” Simmons said. “I wish we had more citizens in our neighborhood like Rob.”
Walker added: “Although there is a deep sadness, knowing that other people are crying with me helps me not to feel so alone. There is such warmth knowing that he touched as many lives as he did.